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Vatican resists new UN move to protect women

March 6, 2013
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The Vatican, Iran and other religious states are resisting efforts by a UN conference, which started Monday, to demand tougher global standards to prevent violence against women and children.

More than 6,000 non-government groups are registered at the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women, one of the biggest events held at the UN headquarters, which regularly turns into a diplomatic battle.

This year’s meeting has been made more emotive after an attack in October by the Taliban on 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for her attempts to promote girls’ education in Pakistan and widely publicized gang rapes in India and South Africa.

Diplomats said the Holy See, Iran and Russia are leading attempts to wipe out language in a final statement that says religion, custom or tradition must not be used as an excuse to avoid a government’s obligation to eliminate violence.

They also have opposed references to rape by a woman’s husband or partner, diplomats said.

“Violence against women must be seen as a human rights issue and that has nothing to do with culture or religion,” said Norway’s Gender Equality Minister Inga Marte Thorkildsen.

“The Vatican, conservative religious forces within the United States and Europe, Catholic and Muslim countries are joining forces to stop women from gaining sexual rights,” the minister said, predicting tough negotiations during the two-week conference.

“It has to do with power and equality and the lack of will to see women as valuable as men,” Thorkildsen added.

“We have to see good prosecutions, prevention and protection for these women and children,” said Thorkildsen, who estimated that gender based violence cost Norway US$1billion a year. [More]

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